Well, last night was a momentous night in American history. I can honestly say that I wasn't sure I would ever live to see the day when a non-white male would be elected president. Sure, I sat in my living room four years ago watching Obama's star-making convention speech and said, "That guy is going to be president," but there was this little voice inside that said, "Come on, Mel. Get real. This country will never elect a black guy president! We can't even seem to manage to elect an intelligent one!" But here I sit, four years later, still getting a little emotionally overwhelmed at the thought of President Obama. Damn. Doesn't that sound great? President Obama. (And hey, don't forget about Vice President Biden.) I was so immensely proud of this country for rising above bigotry and nastiness to elect a good, intelligent, decent man to be our leader, for writing a new chapter in our history books where race is concerned, for voting wisely and hopefully rather than stupidly and fearfully. I still believe that this country is a great nation, but we have become mired in complacency and arrogance to such an extent that our beauty is often obscured by ugliness.
Unfortunately, the battle for decency and acceptance still must wage on. One vote does not put an end to the ugliness of bigotry. On the same night that we, as a nation, elected a black man to the presidency, a portion of us also decided to deny basic civil rights to a large segment of the population. California voters approved Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage. (California, I thought so much better of you than that!) Arkansas voters voted to deny unmarried couples the ability to adopt a child, a law clearly targeted at gay couples. America's intolerance towards homosexuality is perhaps our next great frontier in fighting bigotry. The "us and them" mentality that laws like this promote is shameful and just as harmful and divisive as the Jim Crow laws of a century ago. Just because I won the "sexuality lottery," I get to marry, adopt, and enjoy privileges that seem so basic that I don't even think about them. Meanwhile, my gay friends are told to make do with civil unions and other options that are separate from my options yet not quite equal. It shocks me to my core that we have decided that we can legislate love and place some sort of value judgment on who our hearts choose to love.
And so the battle wages on to keep striving for that more perfect union. There's still more mountain to climb.